Delcam’s five-axis CAM software opens new business opportunities
The addition of two CMS five-axis machining centres, programmed with Delcam’s PowerMILL CAM software, has opened new business opportunities for rapid prototyping and high-speed machining specialist Oxon Prototypes. According to David Seymour, Managing Director of the firm, which is located near Oxford in the southern UK, the new facilities have allowed the company both to broaden the types of project that it can undertake and to complete them much more quickly.
While Oxon Prototypes had always worked on a range of automotive projects during its twenty-five year history, the company had built up a particular reputation for the development of lighting systems. The addition of the new five-axis machines has enabled it to take on larger-scale patternmaking work and to move into the manufacture of wind tunnel test models for the motorsport industry.
"We have experienced massive time savings from using five-axis machining as most jobs can be completed in two set-ups,” explained Mr. Seymour. "In addition, even though the machines are larger than those we have used previously, the machining accuracy is very high. We have used cutters as small as 1mm to machine to a 0.003 mm tolerance. This results in minimal hand finishing, giving us maximum accuracy and faster production.”
"However, five-axis is not just about saving time,” he emphasised. "It has enabled us to do jobs that would be difficult, or even impossible, in three axes. In one extreme example, four jigs would have been needed to make a single part on our old machines. Without five-axis, this job could not have been completed competitively and we wouldn’t have been given the work.”
"In addition, the availability of five-axis machining techniques has changed the way that parts are designed,” claimed Mr. Seymour. "Previously, designers would ensure that holes were placed in one or two axes and they would work hard to avoid undercuts. Removing these restrictions has allowed better parts to be designed more quickly.”
Mr. Seymour is equally pleased with the company’s other Delcam software. "Our strength is the ability to develop designs, not just to produce a prototype,” he explained. "We work with stylists who set general specifications to develop fully-detailed designs and then supply prototypes and short runs. Typical examples include the production of 120 sets of prototype lights for development models of the BMW Mini and the manufacture for Bentley of lights for the Queen’s new state car. For this type of work PowerSHAPE is ideal – I wouldn’t change it for anything else.”
"Similarly, we have found PowerINSPECT much easier to use than our previous software” he added. "It is also much more tolerant of any mistakes by the operator. With our earlier system, if you made even the smallest mistake you had to start the whole process again.”